Queer Query: LGBTQ Censorship in Children’s Media

“Paranorman,” an animated feature-length film released in 2012, boldly stood against LGBTQ erasure by showing a scene with the female character, Courtney, asking the jock out on a strongly implied date.

He instead responded: “You would like my boyfriend. He’s a total chick flick nut.” Dozens of advocacy groups commended the production company, Laika, for the small step.

Some shows never make it past strong speculation, or behind-the-scenes controversy. On Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time,” the characters Princess Bumblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen are an example of this.

Initially featured as former best friends in the episode “What Was Missing,” the YouTube promo channel related to “Adventure Time,” named Mathematical, speculated that there was romantic subtext between the two after the episode aired. When the video went viral, the long-running YouTube Channel was discontinued, the video was removed, and a man was allegedly fired.

Introducing concepts of same sex love is significant for inclusion. Showing healthy, diverse relationships show children that their families are being represented. Future LGBTQ-identifying individuals are shown that their feelings are not wrong.

When “Legend of Korra” confirmed that the leading ladies entered a relationship after the series finale, thousands of fans rejoiced. The leading women, both who were the ATLA-equivalent of Asian and Inuit ancestry, are named Korra and Asami. Both walked hand in hand into a spirit portal, ending the series.

The creators later confirmed that they did indeed enter a romantic relationship after the series. Before they spoke out, the finale divided the entire fandom: Did we witness a ship composed of two bisexual women of color become canon, in an animated children’s show? Or did we witness a strong friendship? (Note: “ship” is a fan term for a romantic pairing in television, film, books, or other fictional media. “Canon” means anything legitimate or confirmed in an official narrative.)

One of the creators mentioned on his blog: “Our intention with the last scene was to make it as clear as possible that yes, Korra and Asami have romantic feelings for each other. The moment where they enter the spirit portal symbolizes their evolution from being friends to being a couple." The final scene parallels directly to the ending of its series predecessor, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” where the main characters Aang and Katara stand hand in hand, before starting their own romantic relationship.

This is a significant victory for the LGBTQ community, no matter how subtle. There is an unsettling erasure of LGBT people within children’s media. Opponents argue that “LGBT issues are adult issues, and exposing these concepts too early will confuse children,” but many experts find this reasoning illogical.

In 2013, “Good Luck Charlie” made history by portraying the first lesbian couple on their Disney Channel sitcom. The couple portrayed were two moms, who brought over their kid for a play date. Many conservative groups attempted to petition against the episode airing. A Disney Channel spokesperson told TV Guide that the controversial episode was "developed to be relevant to kids and families around the world and to reflect themes of diversity and inclusiveness."

After Neil Gaiman’s children’s book, “The Sleeper and the Spindle,” went under controversy for showing a princess kissing awake another princess, professionals rose against the criticism. Suran Dickson, the CEO of Diversity Role Models, said: “The ‘Sleeper and the Spindle’ simply shows that not every princess will be awoken by a prince. This helps children understand different relationships, as well as giving representation to those young people with same-sex parents and can therefore reduce bullying.”

A recurring theme seems to play out: with the progression of social change, our media must slowly match with the times. Censorship occurs because of an intolerant world, but rising against it gives a greater social consciousness for our children and families. For our media is a tool for knowledge, and knowledge is power. To show that love doesn't have to follow a norm, even to young minds? That is a powerful notion.

Theodor Kitsch is an upcoming college student, art enthusiast, and writer. When not attempting to deconstruct the patriarchy, Theodor finds himself marathoning 80s movies, reading about astrology, and filmmaking short films in his backyard. (And before you ask: he’s a Taurus.)

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